Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dogwood Birds Sang Today

Mario and I went out to Falling Creek today, only our second time this season. It has been so cold and so rainy that we haven't been able to get out. But today we bundled up and went out into the Gifford Pinchot.

The whole world seemed all water and green today. So many shades of green. That nearly fluorescent green of the new growth on the tips of various pine trees. The deep dark green of the Doug firs. The blue-green of some of the spruce trees. The shiny jade green of the Oregon grape. The lime-green of the vine maples and dogwood leaves.

All of the green was touched with water, and the sound of water came from all around as we walked the trail that went alongside the creek.

I saw gray, too, in the forest. Shocking gray trunks of trees I don't even name because I am so entranced by the brightness of the gray: by the jewel-like color of the gray where the sun touches it. I point out the spot-lit gray trunk to Mario and we ooh and ahh. I think of my own white-gray hair. I remember getting my first gray hair when I was twelve. My father went prematurely gray in his twenties. So many people look at me, all white now since my early forties, and see nothing but the gray. See nothing but old.

As if being old is bad.

The trail is muddy. A kind of red mud. Not like in New Mexico. Not that hot dry red that is soothing and exciting all at the same time. This is a deeper red. A red that can hardly lay claim to red because it is so brown.

We find one blooming bear grass. Only one. The sharp shining leaves grow up from the ground, like green hair on some science fiction creature whose body is all hair, all green, scurrying around very low to the forest floor. It's unusual to find only one flowering. Usually when one blooms, hundreds bloom, each flower growing up from the center of the grass hillock on a single stalk, stopping two or three feet above the grass, looking like a white flame. When this happens, you can stand in one place and look through the woods and see these bear grass flowers lighting up the forest.

The bear grass aren't blooming, but the dogwoods are. We stop and gasp as we look around. The white bracts of the dogwoods hang in the air all around us like flocks of stilled white birds. We can't see the actual trees or the branches, most of the time, just the bracts, which I learned some years ago aren't exactly the petals of the flower. They're more like leaves, even though they're white and look like petals. They surround the actual flowers which, in the case of Pacific Dogwood, are tiny and greenish.

Doesn't matter what they're called. They look like birds. Or sometimes if I'm close enough, they look like hundreds of lotus flowers hanging from the sky. Sometimes I imagine a Bodhisattva or Buddha in the middle of each of them, meditating serenely. More often I see birds. And lights. The white bracts are lights in the forest, and this year they are everywhere.

Mario and I walk and talk and gaze all around us. Normally we try to hike in silence. But today so much chatter is in my brain and it spills out as we walk. Disappointments. Fears. Irritations. Grief over the oil catastrophe in the Gulf.

We stop to count the deer's head orchids. We are here so late that we've missed most of them. Today we find only twenty-five. Each and every sighting feels like a gift, like every time I see a hummingbird or every time Mario walks into a room where I am.

It is a glorious day.

We stare at the falls when we reach them. Someone has carved letters into the cedar tree near the falls. Deep into the red wood. I feel so angry. And disappointed. What does the tree feel? Did the vandal damage the cambium of the tree?

I ask Mario if he ever carved his name into anything. He says, "No, I never had that kind of ego."

I said, "I had that kind of ego, but I knew a tree was a living thing and it could be damaged."

I wouldn't want someone carving into my skin.

I don't understand this disconnection people have with nature. Sometimes I don't like people. And I don't like not liking them. I'm a pack animal. I want to love my pack.

Mario and I hold hands and start the journey back. I keep thinking about the scarred tree. How could we teach people to have empathy with the natural world? How could we get people to see themselves as part of nature and what they did to the part they did to the whole?

Mario does not think about the tree as we walk. He has let it go. Nothing he can do about it. I admire his abilities. I don't seem to have them. I want to fix the tree and find the vandals.

We continue to walk.

The dogwood birds fly all around us. They are silent and still even as they move in the forest breeze. They make me feel wild and settled all at the same time.

Mario and I laugh together, giddy that we get to witness this wonderful blossoming. This white amongst the green.

The creek next to us turns and dips and gurgles.

We are almost out of the woods when I think I hear the dogwood birds singing.

I stop and listen.

Their songs sound just like my heartbeat.

1 comment:

kerrdelune said...

Loved this post, Sister Kim, how are you doing? Our weather here is too HOT for words, and in May already.

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